In Vermont, Bernie Sanders underwear an unlikely fad
BURLINGTON, Vt. — Bernie Sanders’ name and face are everywhere in the city that first elected him mayor in 1981 — smiling back from the center of a mural in the Church Street marketplace, spray-painted atop a surf and skate shop along the Lake Champlain waterfront, decorating a series of painted hands being auctioned for charity at the popular Penny Cluse Cafe.
But perhaps nowhere does Sanders’ likeness turn more heads than from the backside of a pair of “tighty-whitey” briefs — screen-printed in red along with the message “Feel the Bern” — displayed in the window of the LoVermont 802 T-shirt shop in the Burlington Town Center, a downtown shopping center two blocks north of the Sanders campaign headquarters on cobble-stoned Church Street.
On the day after Super Tuesday, passersby could be seen gawking, snapping photos, or shaking their heads. And more than a few came in for a purchase, ringing up still more sales of “Feel the Bern” underwear.
That’s the way it’s gone every day since just before Christmas, which is when 25-year-old designer Cody Camisa said inspiration struck for his “Feel the Bern” underwear.
Had he sold 50 so far? More than 100? Behind the register, Camisa shook his head. “Thousands,” he said, matter-of-factly. “You throw his hair and glasses on anything, and people really like that.”
Indeed, the Sanders items (like “Feel the Bern” T-shirts that make the Vermont senator look like Homer Simpson or that mash up his hair and glasses with the famed Grateful Dead lightning-bolt skull logo) have been best-sellers for months in the store’s two shops.
But the Sanders underwear has, er, trumped them all in the 802 area code. Camisa, whose father owns the two shops, said he initially bought packs of white boxers and briefs at a local Walmart to silk-screen his first batches. The results sold out so quickly that he was soon snapping up every blank underwear pack the store had. “We had to ask for their wholesaler and get them shipped in from them,” he said. “It puts a lot of smiles on people’s faces; that’s for sure.”
The underwear sells for $10 a pair, two for $15. Camisa is a Sanders supporter unaffiliated with the campaign, though he is contributing a percentage of sales to Sanders, according to LoVermont’s online store.
Beyond Burlington, the Bernie briefs and boxers can be found on Etsy, the creative marketplace, where they are among more than 3,000 Sanders-related items that were listed for sale as of Thursday morning. That long list included everything from cookie cutters in the shape of Sanders’ face to slices of oak logs burned in with his curly haired silhouette, suggesting that online artisans and creative kitchen-table entrepreneurs have been “feeling the Bern” in outsized numbers.
Indeed, while Hillary Clinton may hold a better than two-to-one edge in the Democratic delegate count, Sanders holds a similar advantage on Etsy, where fewer than 1,300 Clinton items are listed for sale.